Getting to Know You: Author Bonnie Leon
Please join me in welcoming best-selling author, Bonnie Leon, to my blog. I’m so excited to have her for my very first author interview! I’ve known Bonnie for several years, first meeting at an Oregon Christian Writers conference. She’s a compassionate and encouraging writing mentor, as well as an amazing author who weaves intriguing and authentic feeling fiction. Don’t forget to comment or ask your own question for a chance to win an ebook copy or signed paperback copy (your choice!) of The Journey of Eleven Moons. You can read my review of her novel here.
Without further delay, please take a moment to get to know Bonnie Leon!
What inspired you to start writing?
I’m certain it was God. I didn’t plan to write, but one day late in 1989 I just had to spill my heart onto paper. I filled legal pads with my thoughts, personal experiences, short stories and poems. It became a part of my every day life.
He sent me reeling again in 1991. I’d been playing at writing, up until then. When a logging truck overturned and hit my van I was badly injured and unable to return to work. I wasn’t able to do much of anything and fell into a depression. What was I going to do with my life? I asked God to give me something to do. He told me to write. It wasn’t easy at first. I felt empty. But gradually the words started flowing. And what had been a hobby became a way of life.
How long did it take you before you were first published?
While attending my first writing conference in 1992, I was inspired to write my first novel. I returned home and over the next ten months I discovered what it meant to create a novel. What an amazing experience. The story and its characters came to life. I was astounded by the whole process.
The following summer at the OCW (Oregon Christian Writers) Summer Conference I presented the manuscript to the acquisitions editor for Thomas Nelson Publishing. I nearly fainted when she said she liked it and could I send her the first three chapters. And when she contacted me a few weeks later requesting the entire manuscript I was truly stunned. Several weeks later I received a postcard in the mail saying she couldn’t find my phone number (tip – always include an email address and phone number) and would I please call her. Hands shaking, I picked up the phone. Thomas Nelson wanted to publish my book! I was flabbergasted. Who sells the first book they’ve ever written to the first publisher to read it?
My first sale happened quickly, but the writing journey has been a lot of hard work with lots of mountain tops as well as deep valleys. Still, I love it and can’t imagine doing anything else.
Do you write fiction, nonfiction, or both?
All my books, thus far, have been fiction, but I just completed a memoir (which is a lot like fiction) for a Native American woman who grew up in the Alaskan wilderness. I’ll share more with you about this book below.
I don’t foresee me writing non-fiction. I’m a storyteller at heart and love to create a tale that captures the heart and mind.
Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas come from all sorts of places. Sometimes they just pop into my mind and begin to reveal themselves. There are some that begin with a character. Other times I find them in scripture. There are a lot of amazing stories in the Bible. They don’t need to be told as Biblical fiction, but can be transported to another time and place. And history has so much to say. Often when I’m doing research for one book I find a piece of history that begs to be fashioned into a story.
How much research, if any, do you do when writing a book?
Research is a huge part of storytelling. And it never stops. Sometimes I go digging for a detail even when a book is in print. As a writer, I’m committed to authenticity. I work hard to make certain the backdrop is true to life and accurate. That can only happen if I’m willing to immerse myself in the time and place. And the only way a reader can be immersed in a story is if the staging is authentic and captivating. To make that happen takes more hours of research than I can count, but I would guess it’s in the hundreds of hours.
Do you use an outline, or do you prefer to write by the seat of your pants?
I’ve always admired seat of your pants writers. I’ve wished that I could do that. It looks like so much fun. However, I admit to being a plotter. Before I can get down to writing I need to create an outline. It’s like a map that leads me through the scenes and plots twists of a story. But I do love those times when something completely unexpected shows up and carries me places I’d never even thought of. When I get done writing those scenes I sit back and ask, “Where did that come from?” I usually don’t know, but that’s okay because I’ve had a lot of fun creating it.
Where do you write?
I have an office that is part of my home. For years I sat at my computer at my desk, but now I do my writing in a big leather recliner. I actually work better and faster at a desk, but my back won’t take the hours of sitting in an office any more. It needs pampering.
I’ll be moving in a couple of months to a new home and my husband and I designed my office so I have a million dollar view while I work. That is if I still get any work done.
What are your hobbies/interests (other than writing)?
Hobbies? What are those? I used to have some. These days, my life feels crammed full of responsibilities. My writing takes up a huge chunk, along with social networking. Plus my aged mother moved nearby and she needs a lot of my time. I don’t mind, but it does cut into other activities. Also, I live close to family and we spend lots of time together. Actually I’m living with my youngest daughter and her family now while the new house is being built. I enjoy gabbing with my daughter and grandkids, probably too much.
Family is a beautiful part of my life, bringing laughter and joy and even heartache. I’d never trade them for hobbies.
All that being said, I am a movie buff. I absolutely love a good movie, all kinds except horror. My favorites are those based on true stories. I also read whenever I can. And my husband promised me that next summer, when he’s not building a house, we can take the boat up to the mountain lakes and do some fishing, which is my favorite hobby.
Do you consider yourself to be an introvert or an extrovert, and how do you think that effects your writing?
I’m definitely an extrovert. I love people and enjoy spending time with friends and family. One of the highlights of my week is our church home group. It is fun to get together with other believers and talk about life and God and to pray and worship together.
As I’ve aged, I’ve found I need time alone when it’s just me and the wind in the trees and the sound of happy birds.
When I first started writing I wondered how a “people person” like me ended up spending the majority of her time at a computer, but I’ve made peace with it. I think the reclusive writing part of my life has helped me appreciate the time I get to spend outside my office. And the extrovert part of me makes social networking easier and more fun.
Tell us a bit about your latest book. What was your inspiration?
The Journey of Eleven Moons is actually the first book I wrote and published. I have always loved the story, but when I reread it a couple of years ago, I saw right away that it was written by a newbie writer—me. I wished I could rewrite it and decided that 2013 was the year to recreate the book and I set to work. It was more difficult than I’d imagined, but I’m thrilled with the results. It is a much better book now.
It takes place in Alaska in 1886 and tells the tale of Anna and her sister, Iya, who are left to survive on their own after a tsunami destroys their village. There is a blue-eyed stranger who has wandered onto their Aleutian island. He offers to help the two native girls, but Anna is convinced he cannot be trusted. She is faced with a quandary—trust him or perish.
A family story inspired the book. My grandmother was Aleut and she grew up in Unalaska, Alaska. One day as a young woman she stood on a bluff and watched a tsunami slam into the shore below her. The image always stayed with me and when it was time to write my first book my grandmother’s experience grew into what became The Journey of Eleven Moons.
What project can we look forward to seeing next?
As I mentioned above, I’ve written a memoir. It is an amazing tale of a Native American woman, Lily, who grew up in the Alaskan wilderness during the 1940’s and 1950’s. She lived a life unlike any I’ve ever known. Her father was a true mountain man and Lily grew up in the shadow of his brutality. Against all odds, she survived and even thrived.
Is there a subject you’ve longed to write about, but haven’t had the chance?
Yes. Of course. My mind and heart are full of ideas. I’m a writer, after all.
I do have a story I’m working on right now. It’s been tugging at me for many years, but I always seemed to be caught up in a new historical without time for something more. It’s a contemporary tale about overcoming—finding hope and fulfilling dreams even when life seems to be without purpose and full of despair.
The huge life change after my accident inspired this story. Finding my way out of darkness and into a place with purpose and even joy wasn’t easy and is something I still struggle with some of the time. There are many others, like me, who have been forced to find a new way to live. I hope to shed light on the process and have fun along the way.
If you’ve written other books, could you please list their titles or series name?
Northern Lights Series
The Sowers Trilogy
A Sacred Place
The Matanuska Series
The Queensland Chronicles
The Sydney Cove series
Alaskan Skies series
Where can your readers go to connect with you online?
Where can readers find your latest release?
It will be available on www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, www.christianbook.com, www.ashberrylane.com and all the other usual places.
Thanks so much for joining us Bonnie!
Readers, and please leave a comment or ask your own question below for a chance to win an ebook copy of The Journey of Eleven Moons.